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United States Patent Application 20180036565
Kind Code A1
Giroud; Nelly ;   et al. February 8, 2018

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR INERTING A FUEL TANK

Abstract

A method for the inerting of at least one fuel tank of an aircraft, by means of at least one inert gas generation system, remarkable in that the inert gas generation system is started when at least one oxygen sensor within the tank measures an oxygen level that is above a high threshold.


Inventors: Giroud; Nelly; (Saint Etienne, FR) ; Reynard; Bruno; (Francheville, FR) ; Vandroux; Olivier; (Grenoble, FR) ; Mysliwiec; Emilie; (La Talaudiere, FR)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Zodiac Aerotechnics

Roche La Moliere

FR
Family ID: 1000002791239
Appl. No.: 15/654241
Filed: July 19, 2017


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A62C 99/0018 20130101; B64D 37/32 20130101; A62C 3/06 20130101; B64D 37/04 20130101; A62C 3/08 20130101
International Class: A62C 99/00 20060101 A62C099/00; A62C 3/08 20060101 A62C003/08; B64D 37/04 20060101 B64D037/04; B64D 37/32 20060101 B64D037/32

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
Aug 3, 2016FR1657547

Claims



1. A method for the inerting of at least one fuel tank of an aircraft, by means of at least one inert gas generation system, wherein the inert gas generation system is started when at least one oxygen sensor within the tank measures an oxygen level that is above a high threshold value.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the high threshold value is 10% oxygen.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the inert gas generation system is stopped when the measured oxygen level is below a low threshold value.

4. The method according to claim 3, wherein the low threshold value is 8% oxygen.

5. The method according to claim 3, wherein the inert gas generation system is restarted when the means of information regarding the flight of the aircraft indicate a certain number of minutes before the beginning of the descent phase of the aircraft.

6. A system for the inerting of at least one fuel tank of an aircraft, said system including at least one inert gas generation system supplied with air, means for the distribution and injection of inert gas into the fuel tank connected to the inert gas generation system, and at least one oxygen sensor installed within the tank, wherein the system for the inerting includes a management unit connected to the oxygen sensor and to the inert gas generation system, that is programmed to register measurements from the oxygen sensor in real time, and to start the inert gas generation system when the oxygen level measurement is above a high threshold value.

7. The system according to claim 6, wherein the high threshold value is 10% oxygen.

8. The system according to claim 6, wherein the management unit is programmed to stop the inert gas generation system when the oxygen level measurement is below a low threshold value.

9. The system according to claim 8, wherein the low threshold value is 8% oxygen.

10. The system according to claim 8, wherein the management unit is programmed to register, in real time, information regarding the mission of the aircraft and to restart the inert gas generation system when the information it registers regarding the mission of the aircraft indicates a duration before the beginning of the descent phase of the aircraft of less than 70 minutes.
Description



ART

[0001] This invention relates to a method and a system for inerting the fuel tank of an aircraft, such as an airplane, a helicopter or similar.

PRIOR ART

[0002] In the art of aeronautics, the use of an inerting system is well known for the generation of an inert gas, such as nitrogen or any other inert gas such as carbon dioxide, and for introducing said inert gas into fuel tanks for safety reasons in order to reduce the risk of explosion from said tanks.

[0003] A conventional prior art inerting system typically includes an on board inert gas generation system (OBIGGS), supplied with air, for example with compressed air diverted from at least one engine, from the so-called intermediate pressure stage and/or the so-called high pressure stage depending on the flight situation. It should be noted that the use of compressed air for the air conditioning is advantageous because the compressed air has a relatively high temperature and pressure, such that the air can be adjusted to a wide range of desired pressure and temperature settings. The OBIGGS system is connected to the airplane fuel tank and separates oxygen from the air.

[0004] The OBIGGS system comprises at least one air separation module containing, for example, permeable membranes, such as polymer membranes, crossed by a stream of air. Due to the different permeabilities of the membrane to nitrogen and oxygen, the system splits the air flow such that an air flow with a high nitrogen content and an air flow with a high oxygen content are obtained. The air fraction enriched with nitrogen, considered to be the inert gas, is routed into the fuel tanks such that the mixture of air and kerosene vapor present at this location is displaced and discharged from the tanks. The devices required for this process such as compressors, filters, and air or water cooling modules or similar are integrated into the inerting system.

[0005] When the level of oxygen in the empty part of the tank is below the ignition limit defined in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements detailed in AC25.981-2A dated Sep. 19, 2008 and entitled "FUEL TANK FLAMMABILITY REDUCTION MEANS" and its appendices, no ignition may occur. From the foregoing, inerting a fuel tank consists in injecting an inert gas into the tank in order to keep the oxygen level within said tank below a certain threshold, for example 12%.

[0006] The international patent application WO 2015/063406, filed under the Applicant's name, is known in the prior art. This international application describes a method and a system for inerting an aircraft fuel tank with a simple and inexpensive design, making it possible to adapt the distribution of inert gas to the actual requirement thereof in order to indirectly reduce the fuel consumption of the aircraft.

[0007] This inerting method is implemented within an aircraft comprising of at least one inert gas generation system and includes at least the steps consisting in: [0008] determining, in real-time, the requirement for inert gas of at least one tank during the use of the aircraft, according to a measurement, in real time, of the oxygen level within the tank, and information relating to the flight of the aircraft; [0009] determining, in real-time, a flow rate set-point for the inert gas generation system as a function of the previously calculated inert gas requirement, and transmitting, in real time, said set-point to means of controlling the inert gas generation system flow rate, [0010] determining at least a control set-point for the distribution of inert gas into the tank, and transmitting in real-time said set-point to means of controlled distribution of the inert gas into the tank.

[0011] Thus, this inerting method makes it possible to adapt the distribution of inert gas to the actual requirement thereof, and makes it possible to indirectly reduce fuel consumption.

[0012] However, the inert gas injection can be adjusted in a finer manner in order to correspond more to actual requirements, and to reduce the consumption of energy and indirectly of fuel for the aircraft.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

[0013] One of the objectives of the invention is therefore to provide an inerting method that has been perfected in the sense that it makes it possible to further reduce fuel consumption and those costs associated with the operation of an inerting system.

[0014] For this purpose, and in accordance with the invention, a method is proposed for the inerting of at least one fuel tank of an aircraft, by means of at least one inert gas generation system, remarkable in that the inert gas generation system is started when at least one oxygen sensor within the tank measures an oxygen level that is above a high threshold value, such as for example 10% oxygen.

[0015] In this way, the method according to the invention makes it possible to adapt the distribution of inert gas to the actual requirement thereof in order to meet the regulations in force, while at the same time reducing energy consumption and indirectly fuel consumption.

[0016] Preferably, in order to further reduce fuel consumption, the inert gas generation system is stopped when the measured oxygen level is below a low threshold value, such as for example 8% oxygen.

[0017] In other words, inert gas injection begins when the oxygen level within the tank is above 10%, and continues until the oxygen level reduces to below 8%. In order to save energy, once below 8%, the inert gas generation system is stopped. This low threshold value makes it possible to stop the inert gas generation system for a certain duration before the oxygen level rises to a value above 10%, thereby causing said generation system to restart.

[0018] Whatever the case, according to another feature of the invention and in order to safely prepare for the descent phase of the aircraft, the inert gas generation system is restarted when the means of information regarding the flight of the aircraft indicate a number of minutes, for example 70 minutes, before the beginning of the descent phase of the aircraft. The number of minutes depends upon the downtime of the generation system and the environmental conditions.

[0019] A system has also been developed for inerting a fuel tank, said system including at least one inert gas generation system supplied with air, means for the distribution and injection of inert gas into the fuel tank, connected to the inert gas generation system, and at least one oxygen sensor installed within the tank.

[0020] According to the invention, the system includes a management unit connected to the oxygen sensor and to the inert gas generation system, that is programmed to register measurements from the oxygen sensor in real time, and to start the inert gas generation system when the oxygen level measurement is above a high threshold value, such as for example 10% oxygen.

[0021] In a specific embodiment, the management unit is also programmed to stop the inert gas generation system when the oxygen level measurement is below a low threshold value, such as for example 8% oxygen.

[0022] Advantageously, the management unit is also programmed to register, in real-time, information regarding the mission of the aircraft, for example from the aircraft computer, and to restart the inert gas generation system when the information it registers regarding the mission of the aircraft indicates a specific number of minutes, for example 70 minutes, before the beginning of the descent phase of the aircraft.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0023] Other advantages and features will become more apparent from the following description, given as a non-limiting example, of a method for the inerting of an aircraft fuel tank according to the invention, beginning with the single FIG. 1 which schematically illustrates an inerting system for the implementation of said method.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0024] With reference to FIG. 1, an inerting system (1) is represented for a fuel tank (2) of an aircraft, such as an airplane or a helicopter for example or similar for the implementation of the inerting method according to the invention.

[0025] The inerting system (1) comprises at least one inert gas generation system (3) supplied with air, for example with compressed air diverted from the engines and/or air from the passenger cabin. The inert gas generation system (3) has an outlet for depleted oxygen air equivalent to the inert gas. The inert gas generation system (3) may consist in any inert gas generation system (3) well known to those skilled in the art, such as a membrane separation system and/or a fuel cell for example.

[0026] The inert gas is then conveyed to inert gas distribution means (4) for injection as such into the aircraft fuel tank(s) (2). The distribution means (4) are well known in the prior the art and comprise, for example, distribution pipes, valves, and injection nozzles.

[0027] Thus, the system makes it possible for an inert gas to be generated and introduced into an aircraft fuel tank(s) (2) for safety reasons in order to reduce the risk of explosion from said tanks (2). The injected inert gas aims to render the fuel tank(s) (2) inert, i.e. allows the level of oxygen present within said tank(s) (2) to be reduced, and notably to maintain this level below a certain threshold, preferably less than 12%.

[0028] Furthermore, the fuel tank(s) (2) has (have) oxygen sensors (5) to measure, in real time, the oxygen level within said fuel tanks (2), during the use of the aircraft. The oxygen level measurement is then sent, in real time, to a management unit (6) that also registers, in real time, information (7) relating to the mission of the aircraft, i.e., all of the different flight phases, the duration thereof, the rate of descent or rate of climb thereof, etc. All of this information (7) is supplied, in real time, by the aircraft computer for example.

[0029] The management unit (6), which consists for example of an electronic board including software, is connected to the inert gas generation system (3), and is programmed to start said inert gas generation system (3) when at least one oxygen sensor (5) measures an oxygen level above a high threshold value, such as for example 10% oxygen. The management unit (6) is also connected to the distribution means (4) in order to convey the inert gas towards the fuel tank(s) (2) requiring an injection of inert gas as a function of the measured oxygen level thereof.

[0030] The injection of inert gas continues until the oxygen sensors (5) measure an oxygen level below 8%. When the measured oxygen level is below 8%, the management unit (6) stops the inert gas generation system (3) in order to save energy. This low threshold value makes it possible to stop the inert gas generation system (3) for a certain duration before the oxygen level rises to a value above 10%, thereby causing said generation system (3) to restart. Of course, depending upon the chosen low threshold value, sometimes, as a function of the aircraft flight conditions, the oxygen level will not have time to rise to a critical value that would not satisfy the applicable standard prior to the landing of the aircraft. Thus, the inert gas generation system (3) is not turned on for the remaining duration of the flight.

[0031] The inert gas injection is performed over a range of values for the oxygen level within the tanks (2), thus making it possible to save energy and indirectly to save fuel. Furthermore, insofar as it is used for shorter periods of time, this also saves on the maintenance of equipment, extending the life expectancy thereof.

[0032] Whatever the case, according to another feature of the invention and in order to safely prepare for the descent phase of the aircraft, the management unit (6) is programmed to restart the inert gas generation system (3) when the information (7) it registers regarding the mission of the aircraft indicates a certain number of minutes, for example 70 minutes, before the beginning of the descent phase of the aircraft. The number of minutes depends upon the downtime of the generation system and the environmental conditions.

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